Emma Barratt, Creative Director of Wolff Olins on Design Leadership

We were delighted to interview Emma Barratt, Creative Director and Head of Design at Wolff Olins in London – a branding agency that needs no introduction. 

But for those of you who don’t know, Wolff Olins was founded in 1965 by two very charismatic men Michael Wolff and Wally Olins. We actually have a podcast with Michael Wolff who talks about the full story – check it out if you haven’t already. For over 50 years, they’ve been delivering strategy, design and change to some of the biggest companies including Google, McKinsey, Spotify, Uber as well as designed the famous London 2012 Olympics logo. 

In our conversation with Emma, we discussed everything from design leadership, her journey of becoming a Creative Director in the most admired agency in the world – as well as the challenges of being in high positions and her personal battle with dyslexia. 

Here’s a juicy, short snippet of the conversation: 

FLA: What achievement are you most proud of? 

EB: If I was pleasing people, I would say my daughter – and it's like the most amazing thing. She's great and I love her, but I'm proud that I went to uni. And I say that because none of my family is educated. None of my family even went to college because they couldn't afford it. So getting through university and getting a degree. It is a big thing for me. 

FLA: For you, what does it mean to be a great design leader? 

EB: It’s bloody hard. For several reasons, there’s no rulebook, there’s nobody telling you how to be a great design leader, and this is a touchy subject for some people, but the rules are different for females. I say this because I want female creatives reading this to know that things are not all roses. 

FLA: You mentioned before that your dyslexia was another obstacle you had to overcome as well. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? 

EB: Yeah sure, first of all, if there is anybody reading this with dyslexia or a learning disability that is similar, don’t be ashamed of it. Don’t hide it. For so long in my career, I didn’t tell people because I believed that it would hold me back. Some people assume that with dyslexia because you can’t spell that means you’re not very bright. That’s bullshit. It isn’t that at all, dyslexic brains are hard-wired to see the world differently, and that’s a superpower. With my dyslexia, I’m a lot more of a visual thinker and I’m terrified of words. I have to thank the strategists I work with for helping me through it. But now, I don’t hide the fact that I have dyslexia. The advice I give to creatives overcoming their own obstacles would be don’t try to fit the mould – we’re all different and work in different ways and that should be celebrated. 

If you want more of Emma’s great advice and stories, listen to the full interview on our Creative Capes Podcast:


Apple Podcasts


If you want to see Wolf Olins’ work and our faces, watch it below on our Youtube Channel @futurelondonacademy.

We’re also very excited to have Emma as an industry expert on our Executive Programme For Design Leaders – Learn more here

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